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Is Jesus a True or a False God?

by Robert M. Bowman, Jr.

When showing Jehovah's Witnesses from the Bible that Jesus Christ is God, it is often best not to question their translation of such key verses as John 1:1 and Titus 2:13. This can be done by sticking to texts such as Isaiah 9:6 and John 20:28 which -- even in the New World Translation (NWT) -- call Jesus "God." That these verses as well as John 1:1 mean that Jesus is Jehovah can be argued using a line of reasoning like the following:

Christian: How many gods are there?

"JW: Well, according to 1 Corinthians 8:5, there are "gods many and lords many."

Christian: But, according to John 17:3, how many true Gods are there?

JW: Only one: Jehovah the Father is "the only true God."

Christian: Quite right. Now, would you agree that whatever is not true must be false?

JW: Yes, I suppose so.

Christian: Then, if there is only one true God, all other gods must be false gods, right?

JW: Yes, I can see that.

Christian: Now, according to John 1:1 in the New World Translation, Jesus is a god. Do you agree with that?

JW: Of course.

Christian: Well then, is Jesus a true god, or a false god?

JW: Hmm...I don't know.

Christian: He can't be a false god, can he, since that would mean the apostle John was guilty of falsely honoring Jesus as a god. Therefore he must be a true God. But Jehovah is the only true God. Therefore, Jesus must be Jehovah.

The usual JW response will be that this argument must have gone wrong somewhere because elsewhere in Scripture creatures are called "gods" without any implication that they are false gods. The texts cited to prove this are always Exodus 7:1, John 10:34 (compare Ps. 82:6), and Hebrews 2:7 (compare Ps. 8:5).

An attempt to answer this response by launching into a discussion of the meaning of all these texts would likely result in the discussion being forever sidetracked. Certainly, you may offer to return to the meaning of these texts after finishing the discussion at hand. But I suggest doing an "end run" around these verses that will keep the conversation on track and still show that these verses do not overturn the argument. Here is one approach:

Christian: Those verses that use the plural "gods" cannot possibly be speaking of Jehovah, right?

JW: Of course not, since Jehovah is only one God.

Christian: Right. So these verses could not be misunderstood to be calling creatures "God" in the usual sense. Would you agree?

JW: That's right, but they are still called "gods" in a sense.

Christian: Yes, but whatever "sense" that is, it is not the same sense in which Jehovah is God, right?

JW: Right.

Christian: Now, consider the verses that use the singular "god" of creatures. Most of these clearly are calling creatures "gods" in the sense of false gods, isn't that true?

JW: Yes, but not all of them. Exodus 7:1 says Moses was a god?

Christian: Well, not exactly. Why don't you read it from the NWT?

JW: "Consequently Jehovah said to Moses, 'See, I have made you God to Pharaoh, and Aaron your own brother will become your prophet.'" See, it does call Moses "God."

Christian: More exactly, it says that Jehovah made Moses "God to Pharaoh." Now, what do you think that means?

JW: I think it means that Moses was going to exercise godlike powers over Pharaoh.

Christian: Then why doesn't the NWT translate this verse "make you a god to Pharaoh?"

JW: Uh...I don't know. Well, maybe it means that Moses stood in God's place, that he represented God.

Christian: So then, Moses wasn't "a god" at all, was he? Wasn't he simply a representative of the only true God?

JW: Hmm. I guess so. But we believe that Jesus is called "God" in this representative sense also -- in John 20:28, for example, when Thomas calls Jesus "my God."

Christian: But surely not in John 1:1, where the NWT calls Jesus "a god." That can't be a "representative" sense.

JW: No, there Jesus is called "a god" because he has godlike powers and qualities.

Christian: But now, you have just admitted that Moses wasn't "a god" in that sense. Is there anyone else in the Bible besides Jesus who is called "a god" -- in the sense of having godlike powers and qualities -- who wasn't a false god?

JW: I can't think of anyone. But why couldn't Jesus be called a god in that sense? He alone was with God at the beginning of the world, assisting Him in the process of creation!

Christian: For the simple reason that the Bible says there is only one God, period (Isa. 43:10; 44:6-8; 1 Cor. 8:4; 1 Tim. 2:5; James 2:19; etc.), and that there is no one who is "godlike" (Isa. 40:18, 25; Jer. 10:6-7; etc.). The Bible even denies that powerful rulers (Ezek. 28:2, 9; 2 Thess. 2:4) and spirits (1 Cor. 10:20; Gal. 4:8) are gods.

JW: I didn't know that! But how can Jesus be God when the Bible says that God is his Father?

Christian: How? I don't claim to know how God can be what He is. But I do believe what the Bible says about Him. Do you?

This line of reasoning is not guaranteed to convince a Jehovah's Witness, but it can be helpful in getting the message across.

Taken from the Witnessing Tips column of the Christian Research Journal, Winter/Spring 1990, page 7. The Editor-in-Chief of the Christian Research Journal is Elliot Miller. Copyright © 1994 by the Christian Research Institute, P.O. Box 7000, Rancho Santa Margarita, CA 92688-7000. Faith and Reason Forum would like to thank CRI for graciously allowing us to put this article on our website. This data may not be used without the sole permission of the Christian Research Institute for resale or the enhancement of any other product sold. This includes all of its content with the exception of a few brief quotations not to exceed more than 500 words.